Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Sermon from this past weekend.

January 15, 2017
2nd Sunday after Epiphany
Isaiah 49:1-7
Psalm 40:1-11
1 Corinthians 1:1-9
John 1:29-42

Since we don't read the Psalm each week, I read this before the sermon. (Psalm 40)
I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
   a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
   and put their trust in the Lord. 

Happy are those who make
   the Lord their trust,
who do not turn to the proud,
   to those who go astray after false gods.
You have multiplied, O Lord my God,
   your wondrous deeds and your thoughts towards us;
   none can compare with you.
Were I to proclaim and tell of them,
   they would be more than can be counted. 

Sacrifice and offering you do not desire,
   but you have given me an open ear.
Burnt-offering and sin-offering
   you have not required.
Then I said, ‘Here I am;
   in the scroll of the book it is written of me.
I delight to do your will, O my God;
   your law is within my heart.’ 

I have told the glad news of deliverance
   in the great congregation;
see, I have not restrained my lips,
   as you know, O Lord.
I have not hidden your saving help within my heart,
   I have spoken of your faithfulness and your salvation;
I have not concealed your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   from the great congregation. 

Do not, O Lord, withhold
   your mercy from me;
let your steadfast love and your faithfulness
   keep me safe for ever.

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

Six years ago on a Friday evening my ministry in this place began.  Surrounded by 30-ish youth and many adult chaperones we were given final directions on how to get to the Hilton in Harrisburg for the Harrisburg YouthQuake.  I jumped right in and have been loving it here ever since. 

Each year following that first year I’ve enjoyed attending the quake.  Well except for last year with that 30+ inches of snow…it was good that we stayed home. 

One year the keynote speaker was Tiger McLuen.  They youth enjoyed his larger group presentations and the adult chaperones were able to attend two adult leader sessions with him as well.  My one big take-away from the adult session was this.  As he talked about youth ministry he said, number one: It’s all about you.  Talking with the adults he said you need to be a person to whom and with whom the youth can relate, you need to be accessible, open, understanding and honest.  We thought, okay we’ve got this.  We understand, it’s all about us. 

And then he said and number two:  It’s not about you. 
A few of us thought, huh?  But he continued to explain…as soon as you have their attention, trust, relationship, you immediately get out of the way and point to Christ.  And we all went, oh….that totally makes sense. 

Hey, look at me, look at me!!! Now, look there! (at the cross) 

You ebb and flow between the two (it’s all about me….it’s not about me) and while relationships deepen, you continue to point to the cross and to Christ. 

And that…is the same thing that John does in our gospel lesson today.  John has been out and about baptizing and calling people to repentance, in preparation for the coming of Christ – look at me, he says, look at me!  This is my message to you…and then John has their attention and he says, look – here is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.  Look, here comes Christ.  Look….this is the one you have been waiting for and preparing for…not me…but him. 

For us today, we are still seeking that savior…the one who takes away the sin of the world, the one who has experienced our joys and our pains and continues to be there for us no matter what and the good new is: The messiah has come! 

And the even better news is:  It’s not you! 

Ha! 

Am I right?  We look at the people in our world around us, looking for the one who will save us…well that person has already come…in Christ. 

God is present with us here and now through the gift of the Son, Jesus Christ, the Messiah…the savior. 

Does that mean the life will be smooth sailing? Oh, heavens no.  We will continue to live our lives in a broken world, one where we struggle with death and dying.  A world where we struggle to feed the hungry, care for our neighbor and work for peace and justice for all the world.  A world where we struggle and argue with others about the state of our environment and the state of our nation.  A world where we seem to speak more than we listen. 

Yet in the midst of it all…God is with us. 
We are reminded of that in the word of our psalm for today.  
“I waited patiently for the Lord;
   he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the desolate pit,
   out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
   making my steps secure.”

Upon reflecting on this psalm, a colleague wrote, “God is present with us in the pit and has the power to draw us out, but a life of discipleship requires turning right back around and entering the pit once again, in the name of preaching good news to those still held captive within it.” 

God is with us, especially when we are most in need of a savior.  And we, then, turn and return to the depths or the pit where others may be to proclaim that good news, that they too have been saved, that they too are free from sin and death to love and serve their neighbor.  Because in essence that is what we continue to do for one another.  Someone drags us out of the pit…and we are able to be there to lift up others….the cycle is cyclical….I wish we could be pulled out of that pit once and be good to go…but we return to that place sometimes through fear, sometimes through doubt, sometimes through loss and sometimes because we have lost all hope. 

But the truth is this: Our present hope stands on the solid foundations of the past, saving acts of God. 

Look as we might, to the world around us for a hope for the future…our present hope stands on the solid foundation of the past, saving acts of God. 

Whatever the future may bring, we look to it, knowing all that God has done for us in the past, knowing that God is here with us now and that God will continue to be with us in to the future.  May we, go forward, knowing what God has done in the past, proclaim that good news…and point to the cross so that others may see and know the presence of God and the hope in Christ Jesus. 

Let us pray,
O God,
None can compare with you, for your wondrous deeds for our salvation are without number. 

Make us bold witnesses to your faithfulness that all the earth may rejoice in your love toward us in Jesus Christ our Redeemer.  And let all God’s people say, amen.  

Friday, January 13, 2017

I'm focused....oh, squirrel! (drat)

Today started off with great focus.  

Breakfast with an amazing young woman.  We reconnected over bagels and coffee.  We shared stories.  We prayed for one another.  My life is enriched by her presence, her compassion, her every growing faith and her tenacity to seek out and speak the truth. 
The last time we met up, we were completely immersed in conversation that I was late to meet someone at the house.   Today, so I wouldn't be watching the clock I set an alarm.  :)
I was able to make it to the gym promptly for my Friday morning strength training session: legs, back and biceps.  I was told to go easy on the warm up, because it was going to be a tough day.  And it was.  After over an hour of lifting, there was no cardio for me.  I was completely wiped out.  A solid strength day.  And now we wait....a day or two...to see how the aches set in.  The good news is that my soreness from Monday's workout was all related to lifting properly.  No pulled muscles, just tired ones that have not been worked like this in a while.  
After a tasty lunch with Billy, I picked up groceries got home, put them away, ate some pie...and lost focus...
This afternoon I found myself idly 1/2 watching tv and 1/2 playing 2 dots on my phone.  An hour went by before I got up and moved on to more important things, like a shower.  Over the past week I've noticed that I fill time more efficiently when I have lists to help me focus.  I don't use them all the time, but they help to keep me from getting distracted.  
I also lost focus as I was strength training today...I guess I am easily distracted by people talking and waking by at the gym. I found it important to look myself in the eyes as I did squats and bicep curls.  It kept the focus on my activity, posture and movement.

This evening I read the book 'One Word that will change your life forever.'  I ordered the book when I started thinking about praying about my one word for 2017.  It was helpful and insightful to see the many ways people have embraced and been embraced by their word.  This word will change my life. 
Here's to more focus...and being more aware of focus in my everyday life.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Shift in focus.

I got up first thing this morning and hit up the treadmill at the gym for a run.  I debated 4ish miles.  As I got moving, I began to think that 3 miles would be a good run.  I felt the strength training from yesterday in my arms, chest and abs as I ran.  (A good ache.)  Also, the person on the treadmill next to me started coughing like crazy...so as soon as I hit 3, I was done.  

The weather forecast for this evening had the chance for some slick precipitation, so while my original plan was to hit the gym for a yoga class tonight, I changed my plan and focus for the afternoon/evening.  

I had a cup of tea, and found a good quiche recipe.  I thought I had seen a roasted butternut squash and goat cheese quiche recipe in Runners World...turns out it was a roasted butternut, caramelized onion and feta cheese frittata.  So I tweaked it.  

I found this recipe on Pinterest http://www.tasteandtellblog.com/quiche-recipe-butternut-squash-kale/ With no kale in the house and a desire to add goat cheese to a quiche, I adjusted the recipe and it came out fantastic.  The fact that I had made the crust ahead of time was a bonus.  


And in other news, I should make quiche more often....


Oh yeah, and since I was famished while it was cooking, I started with a salad.  It was a tasty and healthy homemade dinner.  When I focus on cooking, I enjoy the food I eat so much more.  I'm thankful for the shift in focus this afternoon.  
I also enjoyed having Zootoopia on in the background as I prepped dinner.  A great movie that I will watch a few more times at least.  The tears in the kitchen tonight came from some great scenes, not when I sliced the onion.  

I’m definitely feeling the muscle soreness from yesterday’s strength training….from chest, to shoulders, to tris and abs.  I'm glad I feel it in those muscles because that means I lifted correctly yesterday.  I'm glad that strength training is a focus for me right now.  


**PS….also slept like a champ last night, thanks to a solid strength workout and a bit of cardio yesterday.  My goal tonight is another solid night’s sleep.  My body is ready for bed…..and now I can hit the bed now that the Huskies have just won their 90th game in a row, to tie their old record!  Woo hoo!  

Good night everyone.  

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Fitness focus accomplished...for today.

Focus on fitness today.  

The alarm went off at 6:20 and I wanted to stay in bed.  I was awake but was not interested in getting up for a run.  After some internal debate I remembered/realized that if I wanted to make a difference in my weight then I needed to get up there and then.  And I did.  

I bundled up for a run at 20°.  Little did I realize that the real feel was 9°.  

I made it out and completed my 6 mile run. Finishing as the snow was coming down was a joy in itself.  

I feel good about getting out there this morning.  With that in mind tonight at a gathering I was aware and modified my food and beverage intake.  I left comfortable full and not stuffed.  I'd say that was a good day.  

I'll take it one day at a time...

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Focus on diet & exercise.

So...on January 1, I began the year without a new year's resolution but with a word: focus.
(Want to lean more about One Word? Here's the link:  One Word.)

I thought and prayed about what word would help shape my year.  Many words floated around my mind, but focus kept returning to the center.  I've been taking time each day to hone my focus on the different things I do each day.  I realized that in my day to day life I was multi-tasking almost all the time.  I would have my phone out while watching tv or would be playing games on my phone while eating or trying to accomplish too many things at a time in the office.  It was, it is time to stop doing too much at a time and focus - my attention, my time, my listening, my presence - on one thing or person or situation at a time.  I found this quote after I chose my word for the year.


My current focus, in addition to seeing how focus still plays out in my day to day life, is to work on my diet and exercise.  I have gained some weight over the past year and it's time to work on taking it off.  There was a challenge at my gym: Maintain not gain.  The goal was to maintain weight and body fat rather than gain during the holidays.  I weighed in prior to Thanksgiving at 167 and the body fat registered at 27.4.  Today I weighed in....just under 167....but my body fat was 27.5.  Ugh....But in all reality, those are not bad numbers.  The fact that body fat only went up.1% is good.  The fact that I pretty much maintained my weight, is also good.  But now it is time to change those numbers.  

And yes...I know it's not all about the numbers, but I have some weight to shed.  I have been feeling sluggish and workouts have been tough because of the extra weight.  

With past, positive weight loss experience, I know I can take the weight off.  This past week I tried different classes at the gym and have gotten back into yoga.  I will add a day of strength training and continue to mix up the classes.  I have returned to logging my food and exercise daily.  (This is a system that has worked well in the past.)  In 60 days, I'll weigh in again and check my body fat.  (The gym is kicking off the new year with a Happy New You challenge, hence the 60 days.)  I think the 60 day limit on this is good for me.  I need attainable goals.  While my ideal body weight and shape may not happen in 60 days, I will definitely be on my way and will have daily and weekly habits that will continue this journey.  

In the midst of these 60 days, I will still see how the word 'focus' shapes each day.  It has already helped keep me in the habit of morning devotions and a cup of coffee to start each day.  It's those little things that make a difference for me.  

Thanks for reading.  

Until the next post...

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Happy New Year! A sermon on what always stays the same.

January 1, 2017
Name of Jesus
Numbers 6:22-27
Psalm 8
Galatians
Luke 2:15-21

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent his Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance.

A great passage to hear on the day of a baptism, right?  And on the day we celebrate and remember the naming of Jesus.  Jesus, Son of God and Son of Man, is given his name by Joseph.  In ancient times, the giving of a name publicly showed the community to whom this child belonged.  As Joseph shared Jesus’ name, he was saying, this is my son. 

And in the waters of baptism, we too, are named as we claimed by God. 
We are reminded that this action…is God’s action…and that being washed in these waters welcomes us into the body of Christ, into the family of God. 

And as part of the family of God we are heirs, recipients of the inheritance of God, which is grace upon grace, forgiveness of sins, and eternal life. 

What can you do to get an inheritance? 
Nothing. 

As an heir, you receive the inheritance, NOT because of anything you have done, but because it is a gift for you. 

And so it is the same with the grace of God.   There is NOTHING that we can do to earn that grace, love, forgiveness, and eternal life. 

It is a gift, a free gift, no strings attached.  Period.  End of sentence.  Full stop.   

That’s it.

So…what does that mean for us? 

We know that there is nothing that we can do to earn this gift, yet it has been given to us. 

And upon receiving this gift, we are free to share it with others.  We are free to love one another, free to care for one another, free to not worry about our own mortality and live in the here and now, and the joy of God’s love and grace. 

This free gift will not mean that life is smooth sailing from here on out, but it will mean that God is with us no matter what. 
And that is very good news. 
Washed in these waters, we are named, we are claimed, and we are sent to share this good news with others. 

Washed in these waters, just like Emmett Ash, we are welcomed into this family, knowing that there will always be a place for us…when we are happy or sad, when we are healthy or hurting, when we feel alone or forgotten, when we are able to love or when we are in need of love…there is a place for us. 
We are God’s chosen, we are God’s children. 

So maybe, just maybe the trickiest part of today’s message is that we are God’s…that is we belong to God.  And that all that is in our lives…our jobs, our families, our homes…none of these things are truly ours….they are all gifts from God for us. 

The tricky part is realizing – yet again – that God is in control and all that we have and all that we are is God’s. 
That’s what happens in these waters…
That’s what happens in this family…
There is an element of letting go…yet in that moment of letting go, God continues to hold us. 

God continues to put us first…to gather us in, to care for us, provide for us, so that we are free to do the same for others. 

I want to share a poem by Kahlil Gibran, called On Children. (Found in the book The Prophet

And a woman who held a babe against her bosom said, "Speak to us of Children." 
And he said: 
Your children are not your children. 
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. 
They come through you but not from you, 
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you. 
You may give them your love but not your thoughts. 
For they have their own thoughts. 
You may house their bodies but not their souls, 
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. 
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you. 
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday. 
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth. 
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far. 
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness; 
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Your children, are not your children…they are God’s children, as are we. 

What I would love for us to this day, as you feel able…is to come forward, come dip your fingers in the font, make the sign of the cross on your forehead…remember to whom you belong…and who will be with you always…until the end of the age. 
As you come forward, we will listen to a version of this poem called Of Children by Sweet Honey in the Rock 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

The sermon ended in the same way on Saturday and Sunday, but also differently…
We closed with a time of prayer at the font…remembering that as we go into a new year we are called to remember who we are….and who’s we are.  What unites us in a diverse world is our baptism in to the family of God, into the Body of Christ, and that will guide us into this new year and God will be with us eternally.  And all God's people said, Amen.  
  

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

As long as there's light . . .

Prayer and Healing Homily
December 27, 2016
John 1:1-14

Please pray with me,
May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all of our hearts be acceptable in your sight, O God, our rock, our strength and our redeemer.  Amen. 

We gather today in the light of the Christmas season.  We heard the reading that would have been read on Christmas day.  It is good hear this text in the light of this Christmas season, because even though we may walk in the darkness of pain, loneliness, sickness or uncertainty of the future, the light of Christ still shines in our midst. 

We heard this text as we passed the light and lit candles at the early services on Christmas Eve.  In the King James translation of the Bible verse 5 reads like this, The light shineth in darkness and the darkness comprehended it not.  

The light of Christ still shines this night and all nights.  The presence of Christ still breaks into our world…and the darkness that is part of our world cannot comprehend it. 

It seems that in this season of life and light, we long for the promise of the resurrection, the promise of God breaking into our world…the promise that God will reign in a new way. 

We can see the darkness around us in the battles and skirmishes around the world, in our own nation as we ponder what the future will bring under the leadership of a new president, and in our own homes as this season that should be one of light and love and hope may bring out not only the best in people but the worst.  

I read once that this is the time of year when the suicide rate goes up…it’s a time when the days are short, the nights are long…and loneliness creeps in…

After reading that statistic, I also read that this is the time of year when more people receive transplants that save lives….because of the untimely deaths of others.  I know, not the best image, but one for us to think about this night….that in the midst of death, life breaks through. 

In the midst of darkness, light breaks through…

Last year at this time, Star Wars: The Force Awakens was in theaters.  The battle between the dark side and the resistance was on the screens in full view.  At one point in the movie the resistance has a chance to destroy this new weapon.  Yet they know they can only do it while the weapon is charging from the sun.  Poe Dameron says, “As long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance.” 


“As long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance.” 

How true is that for us today? 

As long as there’s light, we’ve got a chance. 
As long as Christ’s light shines, the good news of the grace of God can be seen in our world. 
As long as Christ’s light shines, there is hope for peace on earth and good will for all of God’s creation. 

As long as Christ’s light shines, we show and share the light and love in this place, in our community and around our world. 

Christ’s light will continue to shine…we see glimpses of it every day. 
In the smiles and hugs that we share in this space. 
In the friendly greeting of others at the store or running errands. 
In the openness in this space to share an abundance of food with the hungry in our community. 
In a baptism we will celebrate this coming weekend….Christ’s light continues to shine. 
I invite you to help spread that light in this place and beyond. 

Come and light a candle, let Christ’s light shine, and as you go from this place tonight, take the light of Christ with you in a story or a prayer to share with a friend or loved one.  Tell others of God’s amazing grace and love and gift of healing. 

Share this light with others. 
Be the presence of God. 
The light shineth in darkness…and the darkness comprehended it not. 


And now may the peace, which passes all understanding, keep our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus and let all God’s people say, amen.