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Showing posts from February, 2021

The Melody of Lent

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  Today, I want to offer space for you to name and notice your learnings this week. What was one pain you identified? What was one balm that seems to help/heal right now? How did this Spiritual, There is a Balm in Gilead, sing to your soul? What questions do you have?   Sit with this hymn, letting the words and melody hover and hang within you and around you.   And may you sense more than a trace of God’s grace every day.   Amen.

The Melody of Lent

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  There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole There is a balm in Gilead To heal the wounded soul Rev. Howard Thurman once wrote of this Spiritual, “The peculiar genius of the Negro slave [song] is revealed here in much of its structural splendor. The setting is the book of Jeremiah. The prophet has come to a “Dead Sea” place in his life. Not only is he discouraged over the external events in the life of Israel, but he is also spiritually depressed and tortured. [Wounded,] he cried out, ‘Is there no balm in Gilead? Is no physician there?’ It is not a question of fact that he is raising—it is not a question directed to any particular person for an answer. It is not addressed either to God or to Israel, but rather it is a question raised by Jeremiah’s entire life. He is searching his own soul . He is stripped to the literal substance of himself, and is turned back on himself for an answer. Jeremiah is saying actually, “There must be a balm in Gilead; it cannot be that there is n

The Melody of Lent

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If you can't pray like Peter If you can't preach like Paul Go home and tell your neighbor He died to save us all Yesterday, we talked about prayer.  Prayer is one of those topics that gets tossed and thrown around.  Beyond saying that you should pray, do we ever try to describe what prayer feels like?  Sounds like?  Smells or tastes like?  Prayer is more than folding your hands and bowing your head.  Prayer is more than a monologue we lob at God.  Prayer is an encounter and experience of the divine. Re-read that last sentence again, please. An encounter, a sense that the Spirit is hovering and hanging around.  We trust the holy is near. An experience, something we can taste or touch or hear or feel. Of the divine – that God is everywhere. Prayer happens all the time in our lives.  Prayer can be brushing your teeth, eating, walking, sitting in silence, listening to music, talking to a friend, reading the Bible or a book.  You can fill in the blank of other moments. At the heart

The Melody of Lent

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  Sometimes I feel discouraged, and think my work's in vain, ( or I have also seen this second line, “And deep I feel the pain”) but then the Holy Spirit revives my soul again. When in the last week did the above words feel like the soundtrack for your soul?   Where do the words above give expression to an experience you are having?   We live in a world where it is easy to be discourage and deep within feel an ache and pain and wonder if what we are doing is making a difference. Pandemic; polarization in our politics; personal problems that wake us up in the middle of the night for a chat; discrimination all its vast variety of shapes and sizes.   The 24-hour-news cycle perpetuates this sense that there is always “Breaking News”…and that if you don’t know about it immediately, well, then you must not care.   Turn on whatever news channel, there are at least five different stories your brain is forced to process.   The crawl across the bottom (which is a relatively new phenomen

The Melody of Lent

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  There is a balm in Gilead To make the wounded whole There is a balm in Gilead To heal the sin-sick soul The theologian Ruby Sales, who at age of 17 marched from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, has been an insightful voice for generations.   She worked for SNCC in Alabama to advance the cause of Civil Rights.   One of her many profound and powerful questions that she proposes is for us to ponder, where does it hurt ? Right now…where does it hurt? Within your own body. Within your heart. Within your mind. Within your soul. Pause for a moment with me, hold this question close.   Because until we name and notice the pain, rather than push it down or ignore it or overprocess it, the pain will continue to throb and rob us of our wholeness.   Until we diagnose and determine that ache that is within us, we will continue to pass it along to others, declaring and deciding that “they” are the problem.   And if “they” would only do what you want, everything would be chocolate river

Lent 3

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  When I reach the River Jordan, bid my anxious fears subside.   Death of death, and hell’s destruction, land me safe on heaven’s side.   Songs of praises, songs of praises I will ever sing to you, I will ever sing to you. This is such a powerful verse.   I am struck by how fears, death, and destruction are put aside awakening a song of praise within us.   I think about how often fear, death, and destruction are part of our lives.   We hear it all the time on the news.   And now with a 24-hour news cycle, you can hear about why the world is going you know where in a handbasket any time you want.   You don’t need to wait to see fear or hear about someone dying or encounter pain, there are countless channels dedicated to telling you.   Or you prefer, you can just refresh your newsfeed on your computer, because the internet will find in any gaps. I get that the world is not all ponies rides and chocolate rivers.   I get that pain is real.   I know that there is heartbreaking suffering

Lent 2

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  I invite you to listen again to the hymn, Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer .   Listen, lean in, hear with your whole heart the second verse: Open now the crystal fountain, where the healing waters flow.   Let the fire and cloudy pillar lead me all my journey through.   Strong deliverer, strong deliverer, ever be my strength and shield, ever be my strength and shield. Healing water that washes over us – renewing and refreshing.   Healing water that supports us and our souls feel buoyed by a love.   Healing water that saturates and soaks our lives with God’s presence. When have you felt that kind of water?   Maybe diving into a pool on a hot summer day as a kid.   Maybe when you visited the Holy Land and you actually waded in the water of Jordan.   Maybe when you walked along the beach, waves tickled your toes, as you held onto the truth that Jesus called his disciples from the seashore.   Water flows through scripture.   From the beginning with Genesis to being parted in Moses to a

Lent 1

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  Beginning of Lent Today, we begin the season of Lent, which comes from the English word, lencten , meaning “spring season.”   Who says you don’t learn something reading these morning mediations!   During Lent, I want to open our hearts to holy hymns that sing to our souls.   In particular, I want us to pray the words of our hymns.   You can pray by singing these words or listening to a version on YouTube (I have posted a link below).   I encourage you to listen several times today. Which words or phrases calm you?   Why? Which words or phrases leave you feeling restless? Why? What memories does the hymn invoke or provoke from your heart?   You can always post a comment. We start with one of my favorites, Guide Me, O My Great Redeemer (or Jehovah).   Here is the first verse to pay attention to: Guide me, O my great Redeemer, pilgrim through this barren land; I am weak, but you are mighty; hold me with your powerful hand.   Bread of heaven; bread of heaven, feed me till I

Leaning Into Luke

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  One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out,    and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger.    They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm.    He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?” Luke 8:22-25 I have been on that boat this last year.   The wind and waves tossing my life to and fro.   Feeling like I am racing and running around in all directions.   I have set sail on that ship countless times in trying to respond to the pandemic and polarization and discrimination.   I have tried to manage the sails of worship with one hand while

Leaning Into Luke

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  “No one after lighting a lamp hides it under a jar, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a lampstand, so that those who enter may see the light. For nothing is hidden that will not be disclosed, nor is anything secret that will not become known and come to light.    Then pay attention to how you listen; for to those who have, more will be given; and from those who do not have, even what they seem to have will be taken away.”   Luke 8:16-18 Smokey the Bear would so not be happy with the opening image here.   An open flame under a bed?   That is a fire hazard waiting to happen.   And while we are at it, the ending is about as uplifting as Debbie Downer.   So, if you have a lot, here have more the passages suggests on the surface.   And if you are down to your last thread be careful because there is a pair of sharp scissors hovering perilously above you.   To be clear, Jesus probably wasn’t talking about money or stuff we stuff our lives with.   Although, it certainly is the case th

A Pause

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  We wind down and wrap up another week.   I find that after offering you thoughts for four days, it is good to give you space to breathe and be.   Rather than just pile on more words, I pray you will listen to what words are rising and roaming within you.   Rather than more thoughts from me, for you to pay attention to your thoughts. To give space for you.   What new insight or idea came to you this week?   What struggle still swirls restlessly within you?   What might be that next right step as we move toward the middle of February?   May these questions invoke and invite God’s listening, loving presence for you this day and throughout the days to come. May traces of God’s grace be with you now more than ever. Amen.

Leaning Into Luke

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  “But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you,   bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you.    If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt.    Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again.    Do to others as you would have them do to you. Luke 6:27-31 I wonder who Jesus was looking at when he spoke these words about loving your friend-mies?   Of all the verses in scripture, Luke 6:27 is one of the most challenging.   It is one we quote at others, but I find these words so hard to embrace and embody in these days.   And if that wasn’t enough, which it is, Jesus goes on about blessing those who cure me; pray for those who abuse me; and turn the other check.   Why not just tell me to walk on water and then turn that water in wine!   The lofty language of scripture set the bar high for us to clear i

Leaning Into Luke

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  Now during those days he went out to the mountain to pray; and he spent the night in prayer to God.    And when day came, he called his disciples and chose twelve of them, whom he also named apostles:    Simon, whom he named Peter, and his brother Andrew, and James, and John, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James son of Alphaeus, and Simon, who was called the Zealot, and Judas son of James, and Judas Iscariot, who became a traitor. Luke 6:12-16 Show of hands…how many of you before you read the passage above could have named all the disciples?   To be clear, my hand is stuck to my side and my head is studiously looking at the ground avoiding looking anyone in the eyes.   Oh, I know a few.   Peter.   Check.   James and John and Andrew.   I am on a roll.   Philip and Thomas, feeling good about myself.   Oh, then there is Judas, Mr. Betray Your Best Friend.   Then, my mind goes blank.   On a good day, I might remember there was a second one named James.   Oth

Leaning Into Luke

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  On another sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught, and there was a man there whose right hand was withered.  The scribes and the Pharisees watched him to see whether he would cure on the sabbath, so that they might find an accusation against him.    Even though he knew what they were thinking, he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come and stand here.” He got up and stood there.  Then Jesus said to them, “I ask you, is it lawful to do good or to do harm on the sabbath, to save life or to destroy it?”    After looking around at all of them, he said to him, “Stretch out your hand.” He did so, and his hand was restored.    But they were filled with fury and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.   Luke 6:6-11 First the grain and now the healing.   Does Jesus not know how to turn down the temperature rather than elevate the tension in the room?   Why does Jesus keep poking the bear and provoking people?   And what will the children think when he keep

Leaning Into Luke

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  One sabbath while Jesus was going through the grainfields, his disciples plucked some heads of grain, rubbed them in their hands, and ate them. But some of the Pharisees said, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the sabbath?”   Jesus answered, “Have you not read what David did when he and his companions were hungry?   He entered the house of God and took and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and gave some to his companions?”   Then he said to them, “The Son of Man is lord of the sabbath.” Luke 6:1-5 Jesus was out for a Saturday stroll.   He had been to Temple to worship, pray, sing, and even enjoyed a cookie and cup of coffee at fellowship time afterwards.   So, he decided to continue his worship with a walk out in the beauty of God’s creation with his disciples (more on them later this week).   I guess that snack after the service didn’t last, linger for his friends.   Their stomachs started rumbling and grumbling, they saw

Leaning Into Luke

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  He told them this parable: “No one tears a piece out of a new garment to patch an old one. Otherwise, they will have torn the new garment, and the patch from the new will not match the old.    And no one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined.    No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.  Luke 5:36-38 As we wrap up and wind down the first full week in February, Jesus offers a truth that you cannot put new wine in old wine skins.   We know that life has changed and is changing since February 2020.   At this time, one year ago, we were hearing about COVID, but had not fully felt the weight yet – although there was concern hovering in the air.   At this time, one year ago, we had not witnessed the murder of George Floyd.   We had resisted the collective, communal lament that is needed in the face of discrimination in all its heartbreaking, soul aching forms.   At this time, one year

Leaning Into Luke

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  They said to him, “John’s disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking.”   Jesus answered, “Can you make the friends of the bridegroom fast while he is with them?    But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast.”   Luke 5:33-35 This is another human moment in scripture.   The religious people are comparing and competing who is being more faithful.   The religious people are trying to prove that their haloes shine brighter and bolder than others.   The religious people are pulling others down to prop themselves up.   What breaks my heart is the previous three sentences are as true today as when Luke wrote down the words above.   Churches constantly compete and compare worship attendance and budgets.   How many new members they gained in the last month?   The boasting and bragging sounds like the pastor thinking s/he is the “Thou” referred to in the hymn “How Great Tho

Leaning into Luke

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  After this, Jesus went out and saw a tax collector by the name of Levi sitting at his tax booth. “Follow me,” Jesus said to him,    and Levi got up, left everything and followed him. Then Levi held a great banquet for Jesus at his house, and a large crowd of tax collectors and others were eating with them.    But the Pharisees and the teachers of the law who belonged to their sect complained to his disciples, “Why do you eat and drink with tax collectors and sinners?” Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”   Luke 5:27-32 Jesus had just healed someone, he headed out of the house where he was at and there is a tax collector. That ominous sound you hear is because tax collectors were looked down upon and pushed to the fringe of polite society.   The soundtrack that should accompany the words, “Levi sitting at his tax booth,” would be like the theme song to Jaws or what played

Leaning in to Luke

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  17 One day Jesus was teaching, and Pharisees and teachers of the law were sitting there. They had come from every village of Galilee and from Judea and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal the sick. 18 Some men came carrying a paralyzed man on a mat and tried to take him into the house to lay him before Jesus. 19 When they could not find a way to do this because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and lowered him on his mat through the tiles into the middle of the crowd, right in front of Jesus.  20 When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”  21 The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began thinking to themselves, “Who is this fellow who speaks blasphemy? Who can forgive sins but God alone?” 22 Jesus knew what they were thinking and asked, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? 23 Which is easier: to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? 24 But I want you to know that the Son of Man has authori

Leaning in to Luke

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   While Jesus was in one of the towns, a man came along who was covered with leprosy. When he saw Jesus, he fell with his face to the ground and begged him, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.”  Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” And immediately the leprosy left him.  Then Jesus ordered him, “Don’t tell anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest and offer the sacrifices that Moses commanded for your cleansing, as a testimony to them.”  Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.   Luke 5:12-16 There is such a humanity woven into this passage.  You have the passionate plea of a person who has suffered, struggled, and deep in his soul longs to be well.  You have Jesus’ willingness to embrace and enfold the one who was hurting (and considered untouchable because of the skin disease) with a