Thursday, December 22, 2011

Running through Advent

The season of Christmas is almost upon us. 

This season of Advent has seemed to fly right by....the two practices I took on this season were prayer and running.  (Sometimes, depending on the distance of the run, these go hand in hand.)  This year, like last year, after the advent wreath was put together, I cut out yellow stars and placed them in a blue bowl in the center of the wreath.  Each day as I lit the wreath, I pulled out a star and included that person, those people or group of folks in prayer throughout the day.  I am thanful for the opportunity to take the time while I pray to think about others and bring them into prayer and bring me out of myself.

I love that the mantle is covered with stars and as I walk by I think of all those who have journeyed with me this advent.  Last year at this time, it was a time of much unrest for me.  Between anticipating a new call in Robesonia, and saying goodbyes in Indiana, I was surrounded by boxes and packing and goodbyes and deep breaths.  While I knew that the right decisions had been made, in the midst of it all I found it hard to just be.  I am thankful for the opportunity to reflect upon this time last year with a sense of calm and happiness that God has called me to this place.  I continue to pray for those who are in the midst of anxious times, unrest and uncertainty.  It is exactly into that situation that God sent Jesus into the world.  Into a world needing love, forgiveness and understanding.  It was a world that was looking for hope, salvation and a new beginning.  It is into that world, here and now that we are ready to receive the Christ child (again) in our midst this coming Christmas Eve.  May we be reminded the God breaks into our world - just as it is - to claim us, to love us and to send us into this broken world as agents of God's grace to those who surround us. 

May you have time this Christmas Eve to gather together in worship, in song, in prayer and at the Lord's Table to receive the greatest gift ever given. 

God's peace . . .

Monday, December 19, 2011

Congratulations! It's a boy!

December 18th, 2011
4th Sunday of Advent

2 Samuel 7:1-11, 16
Psalm 89:1-4, 19-26
Romans 16:25-27
Luke 1:26-38

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

On this 4th Sunday of Advent, we hear the story of Mary.  A story that we seem to know by heart,
26-28In the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to the Galilean village of Nazareth to a virgin engaged to be married to a man descended from David. His name was Joseph, and the virgin's name, Mary. Upon entering, Gabriel greeted her:

   Good morning!
   You're beautiful with God's beauty,
   Beautiful inside and out!
   God be with you.
 29-33She was thoroughly shaken, wondering what was behind a greeting like that. But the angel assured her, "Mary, you have nothing to fear. God has a surprise for you: You will become pregnant and give birth to a son and call his name Jesus.

   He will be great,
      be called 'Son of the Highest.'
   The Lord God will give him
      the throne of his father David;
   He will rule Jacob's house forever—
      no end, ever, to his kingdom."
 34Mary said to the angel, "But how? I've never slept with a man."
 35The angel answered,

   The Holy Spirit will come upon you,
      the power of the Highest hover over you;
   Therefore, the child you bring to birth
      will be called Holy, Son of God.
 36-38"And did you know that your cousin Elizabeth conceived a son, old as she is? Everyone called her barren, and here she is six months pregnant! Nothing, you see, is impossible with God."
   And Mary said,

   Yes, I see it all now:
      I'm the Lord's maid, ready to serve.
   Let it be with me
      just as you say.
   Then the angel left her.
As we continue to prepare our hearts and our homes and our lives for the moment God breaks into our world, as we continue to point to the coming Messiah, this week gives us an opportunity to focus on Mary’s call story.  We hear this week how God broke into Mary’s heart and Mary’s life and told her what her part in God’s plan would be. 

This is some pretty amazing stuff going on here, because here’s the thing about Mary.  She wasn’t dubbed Miss Nazareth, she hadn’t entered and won the sweepstakes to bear God’s son.  She was a humble young woman, betrothed to Joseph just living her life.  She had no idea that this great call would come to her.  And when the message came to her, she didn’t say, oh wait, let me think about this. 

She didn’t say, now, how will this impact my life, my family, my future.?
She didn’t say, woah, what will the townspeople, my parents and Joseph think of me?
While she may have had some of these thoughts, she doesn’t take the time to voice them. 

The angel doesn’t come to Mary and say, how would you feel about being the mother to God’s son?  Would you be up for it?  Say Mary, here’s God’s amazing plan for saving the world, are you okay with playing a key role in it? 

Nope, the angel doesn’t really give her the option to answer….because God has called her.
God has chosen Mary.  There’s no opportunity to say no, because she’s the one. 

Mary does, however, ask, “How can this be?” 
She is human, of course and probably was wondering about the details…who wouldn’t? 

But this doesn’t deter her from saying yes. 
She is an amazing woman.  She hears God’s call in her life and she responds, “Here am I, the servant of the Lord; let it be with me according to your word.” 

In the midst of the season where we are preparing for God with us, Emmanuel, to be in our presence, in our hearts and in our world…sometimes this story seems like an amazing, one in a million occurrence of God calling one of God’s chosen to join in on the mission of saving the world.  And what makes this story amazing….is that Mary says yes.  She hears God’s call for her and she responds, positively. 

So, how does this story speak to us this day? 
God is breaking into our hearts every single day.  God is calling each and every one of us to be a part of this mission to love and save the world. 

We may not be called upon to physically give birth to the Son of God. 
But that does not belittle the fact that through our baptism, we have been called, by God, to live out lives of love and service to others, to bring Christ into the world. 

Mary was called to do a very tangible thing, to birth God’s love into the world, to proclaim that God’s promises are fulfilled.  Aren’t we asked to do the same? 

Meister Eckhart, a medieval mystic and theologian wrote, “We are all meant to be mothers of God.  What good is it to me if this eternal birth of the divine Son takes place unceasingly but does not take place within myself?  And, what good is it to me if Mary is full of grace and if I am not also full of grace?  What good is it to me for the Creator to give birth to the Son if I do not also give birth to him in my time and in my culture?  This, then is the fullness of time: When the Son of God is begotten in us.” 

God comes to each and every one of us, proclaiming good news of great joy to all people. 
We are each called and claimed and sent into this world to bear Christ to those around us. 

How will you hear God’s call this day? 
How will you live out the promise God made with you in baptism, that you are loved and saved, claimed and sent? 

How will your words and actions bring Christ into your home, your school, your place of work, the community and the world? 

    Good morning!
   You're beautiful with God's beauty,
   Beautiful inside and out!
   God be with you.

Now go and bear Christ to the world.  Through what you say and what you do.  Through your ability to see others in the world and respond to their needs.  Through letting go of the things that get in the way of proclaiming Christ in your words and deeds. 
Go, bear Christ to the world! For he is coming and he is with us. 

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

Monday, December 12, 2011

joyful thoughts on abundance

December 11, 2011
The 3rd Sunday of Advent

Isaiah 61:1-4, 8-11
Psalm 126
1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
John 1:6-8, 19-28

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

It’s all about me.

How many times have we felt that?  Or said that?  It’s all about me.  The day, the world, all others out there revolve around me, myself and I. 

Pretty selfish thought, isn’t it?  But it’s a thought we’ve probably all had.  I don’t want to point fingers at society, but we live in a culture that promotes ‘self.’  We can get the best cars, homes, Christmas decorations, clothing, smart phones.  Whatever you need to put you on top, you can get it.  And if you have a smartphone…you don’t even need to leave your house, you can place an order from the bookstore to the grocery store….and have it all delivered to your door. 

In this society we may even tend to want people and places to meet our expectations.  This is my community….and this is how things are done.  This is my church….and this is how we do things. 

When things revolve around us, we expect them to meet our expectations, we expect them to fit into the molds that we have created for them…we expect everything to meet our needs, our desires, our expectations. 

It’s all about me. 

Maybe that’s why the message of John the Baptist is calling out to us, or shouting out to us in the midst of this Advent season.  John is saying…Hey!  It’s not about you! 

Okay, that may be reading into it just a little bit.  But our gospel passage today is about John, but not about John.  He was sent from God to testify, to witness....those words come up many times in our lesson today, he was sent to point to Christ, to turn people towards Christ, to help people prepare for the coming Messiah. 

When the priests ask who John is…he is clear about who he is not. 

I am NOT the Messiah.
I am NOT Elijah.
I am NOT the prophet. 

He is the voice….the one who cries out “Make straight the way of the Lord!” 

John is not the one who will save us.
John is not the savior, the redeemer, the one who will turn the world upside down. 

John is clear here, that it’s not about him.  It’s not all about John.  Even though he is a fellow who draws our attention because of his looks and his diet, as soon as he catches our eye…he redirects us.  He turns us away from himself.
He turns us away from ourselves. 
He points and he turns us toward the coming Messiah. 

John’s message of repentance and preparation calls us to turn away from ourselves, our needs, our self-focus…and towards Christ in our midst here and now. 

Where is Christ here and now in our midst? 

Nope, not a trick question….where is Christ, Emmanuel, God with us, here and now? 

Let’s hear some examples….

I’m sure we could go on and on and go all around the sanctuary and here about different examples of the presence of Christ in our lives, in our community and in our world right now.  And the reason we could go on and on and on is because God is at work in our world, right now.  God is on a mission to love and save the world.  And that mission has been happening and continues to happen.  The mission doesn’t stop to see if we’re ready to hop on….we just answer the call to serve and jump right in. 

The trick is first, to spot what’s happening, you need to be on the lookout for God’s activity in the world…for Christ’s presence here and now in our midst. 

Then you have to tell others about it.  Tell your friends about where God is with us here and now.  Just like we shared those examples with one another.  But it’s more than just telling the story of the good news of Jesus Christ.   It’s more than just seeing it around you and telling others about it. 

It’s about responding to the covenant, that promise that God made with each of you in baptism.  It’s about responding to God’s love for you.  It’s about responding to God’s grace.  It’s about being an active part in the mission that is already going on around you. 

Because when you see all that is going on in the world…all the places that God is at work in the world, blessing people, loving people and saving people….it’s pretty amazing. 

And that good news, that love and that grace is unending…it’s not going to run out.  It’s not going to stop….it’s like the energizer bunny…it keeps going and going and going….

When we see that abundance, it’s easy to give. 

When we are worried about not having enough, or living in scarcity, then it’s hard. 

But we live in abundance. 
We have enough and more….

One of my favorite stories from a former parishioner is this. 
As soon as this couple was married…they decided they would tithe to the church.  They didn’t make much money, but they decided they would give 10 percent to the church first, then live off the rest.  They weren’t rich, by any means, but they got by.  They went through some tough times, but they kept up the commitment they made to the church.  Eventually the husband got a better job, the money flowed in much faster and in greater amounts then it had before. 
Their giving of 10 percent remained….all of the sudden they looked at their statement and were shocked as to how much they were giving to the church.  But the giving continued….
To this day, (as a retired couple) they commit to give 10 percent to the church, which doesn’t included baked goods for different events, donations to youth trips, donating supplies to the food pantry or buying gifts for needy youth at Christmastime. 

I know that, especially at this time of year, there is worry about having enough…and as soon as we do, we are forgetting that God is a God of abundance and generosity.  John helps us remember that it is not about us…and our needs…but it is about pointing others to Christ in our midst here and now. 

We have an abundance of gifts within this congregation.  Just look around you…all the ministries and activities that happen in this place are because we are alive and active in our response to God’s grace and love in our own lives. 

Think about how your time, talents and treasure help Trinity to point to Christ in our community. 
How will that commitment continue in the coming year? 
And how will that commitment increase? 

The wealth surrounds us…
The grace and love and gifts that God blesses us with continues to flow in abundance….

The light of Christ…that shines from this candle, is not extinguished as the light is shared…but the light gets brighter.   The light grows as it is shared. 

How will you let Christ’s light shine?

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

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Giving thanks.

It's that time of year, when we specifically think about giving thanks. 
In less than a week, we will be (if we aren't already) surrounded by Christmas carols, store sales and the hustle and bustle of the approaching Christmas season.  Yet, in this week, before the season of Advent begins, we have time to pause and give thanks. 

I am so thankful for a wonderful weekend.  My parents came down from Connecticut to surprise my sister as she ran the Philadelphia marathon.  They arrived on Friday evening and we enjoyed making dinner in the new kitchen, talking and just catching up. 


Saturday I ran a little with my mom, and she and dad ran a bit on their own. (At that point I was struggling with a cold, and if the daily meds couldn't get rid of it I was hoping to run it out of my system! Alas, that did not work.)

Saturday afternoon I had the pleasure of swapping ornaments and enjoying a late afternoon tea with some of the ladies at Trinity.  Such wonderful fellowship as we gathered around the table to talk and to laugh. 

Saturday evening I was able to worship with my family.  Billy, mom, dad and I worshiped together and enjoyed some fellowship at church before heading home for a family dinner. 

We were up super early on Sunday to make it into Philadelphia before they closed the roads around the race route at 6am.  We made it to the race start to meet up with my sister pre-race.  I also ran into Darrell and his kids before the start.  Isn't that a wild thing?  Thousands of runners and spectators and I run into folks from Trinity!  Crazy, but wonderful.  I was able to look for and spot Allison a few times during the race.  Fun times! 

Post-race....the whole family went to a funky Irish restaurant in Philadelphia for dinner.  As we gathered around that tiny table, we were together....celebrating family and marathon runners...giving thanks for that opportunity to all be together for that brief moment in time.  Who knows when we will gather together again.  Mom and dad hope to come down for Christmas, but my sister will be with her husband's family up in New Hampshire.  And that's the way family works.  There are times and places that we are blessed to be together and other times when we are apart.  But for those times we are together, I give thanks to God, for safe travels, for the opportunity for each of us to have time off, for the gift of time to be together. 

As this Thanksgiving draws near, I am thankful to God for so many things.  For safe travels throughout the year.  For my family at Trinity who has welcomed me in and continues to support and nurture me. For the opportunity for my family to see my joy and happiness. For the opportunity to run 13.1 miles with my mom.  For the opportunity to meet someone special and share many fun times together.  For the opportunity to be apart of the ministry that God is so busy with at Trinity.  For the opportunities for new and wonderful things in the coming year.

For what do you give thanks?

Take time to pause this Thanksgiving...around the table....with friends and family...to give thanks to God for all the blessings that have been bestowed upon you.  They are bountiful.  They are wonderful.  May we all continue to be blessed by God in the coming years....

 +paz

Monday, November 7, 2011

Remembering all the saints...then and now.

November 6, 2011
All Saints Sunday

Revelation 7:9-17
Psalm 34:1-10, 22
1 John 3:1-3
Matthew 5:1-12

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 and our redeemer.  Amen. 

1 What marvelous love the Father has extended to us! Just look at it—we're called children of God! That's who we really are. But that's also why the world doesn't recognize us or take us seriously, because it has no idea who he is or what he's up to.
 2-3But friends, that's exactly who we are: children of God. And that's only the beginning. Who knows how we'll end up! What we know is that when Christ is openly revealed, we'll see him—and in seeing him, become like him. All of us who look forward to his Coming stay ready, with the glistening purity of Jesus' life as a model for our own.
That’s it really.  We are children of God!  God love us!  God saves us!  We go on to live and love others in that glory.  Amen.

Just kidding…In a nut shell, it is that simple.  That in this passage, we hear that we are God’s children.  That God loves and saves us.  That God loves us so much, that before we were here, God sent Jesus into the world, to live with us, to teach us and to die for us. 

Pastor Bill often says in confirmation (and perhaps even first communion) that your parents are the only ones in your life who will take a bullet for you.  Maybe I didn’t get the quote just right, but you get the idea, that a parent’s love for a child is like no other. 

A parent’s love for a child has nothing to do with how the child acts or how the child behaves.  That love is there…it is constant…it is never-ending….no matter what.  It is the love that naturally flows out of a parent’s heart. 

I would be na├»ve if that meant that all experiences between parents and their children were happy and smooth and easy and involved no arguments or fights.  If you are a parent or a child, you know that the relationship isn’t perfect.  In reality, we are human, we do our best to be the best that we can, but we mess up, we make mistakes, we fall short of being the amazing people that God calls us to be. 

But that’s the amazing thing about being children of God, God loves us for who we are, for who God created us to be….even if were aren’t acting up to our full potential.  Do you get that?  That God’s love is all encompassing and all embracing…so that at our best moments and at our worst, God continues to love us and save us no matter what. 
It’s not about how many good deeds we can do so we ‘qualify’ for God’s love.  But it’s about opening ourselves up to receive the love that God gives…which then flows out of us. 
We are a fallen humanity.  We are sinful beings.  We confess that at the beginning of worship together….only to be graced with the unconditional love of God as we step up to this table.  Just like children being called in from playtime outside to the dinner table, we are called together, to this table. 

Remember with me, if you will….back in the day.  Long, warm summer days.  Playing outside in the yard or the neighborhood with your friends.  You’d all be outside playing ball, tag, riding bikes, or jumping rope…perhaps even drawing creations on the sidewalk and driveway with chalk.  And then you hear your name….mom or dad is calling you in for dinner.  You hear similar shouts throughout the neighborhood…the names of your friends being called in…from a time of play, to a time to share a meal around the table with family.  And no doubt you said….Coming! 

Because who around here, in Berks county especially, would not answer positively when called to a meal?  When called, we respond. 

That’s exactly what happens in this place and at this table. 
Just as you have been called in to the table by mom or dad or grandma or grandpa as you grew up….God still calls us to this table.  To this meal of bread and wine.  A simple meal that strengthens us and nourishes us for service and love in the world around us. 

It is God who invited us to this table through the waters of baptism…and it is God who calls us this day to this place….It is God’s words calling…let us give thanks to the Lord our God and you all say “Coming!!! As you respond with it is right to give our thanks and praise.”  It is you who reply…with the whole company of heaven and with all the saints who have gone before us. 

As we gather together to celebrate All Saints Day.  We remember those who have gone before us.  Who are already at the heavenly banquet….they answer God’s call, and sing with us too….this is the time when our voices unite who those who have sung with us on earth…we sing together with all the saints…with all who have gone before us…with…
                                                                     
We also remember, this All Saints Day, that we, too are called as Saints…to this table.  To celebrate this Holy Meal with those who surround us now, and those who have gone before us. 

As you come forward for communion this day, you are invited to take space around you at the railing…to allow space for those saints who have gone before us to join us at this feast.  Take time at the railing to remember the meals you shared with them…at this table and at others.  May our time at this table today, remind us of all who have gone before us in the faith, all the Children of God who are in God’s heavenly home. 

And  as you depart from this table…I invite you see the saints around you in this place…those who live and journey with us now.  Those who are not yet in this space who have yet to hear of God’s love and grace…of those who have yet to join us at the Lord’s Table…or those who have not graced God’s table in a month, a few months a year or more…take time this week to pray for, to call and to invite those saints back into our midst.

At this table is a place for you. 
At this table is forgiveness, grace and love, for you. 
And there is room at this table, for all. 

Until that day, when we are all united with all the saints who have gone before us, let us celebrate this meal, this foretaste of the great feast to come. 
May it strengthen those who are weak. 
May it comfort those who mourn.
May it offer forgiveness to all.
And may it strengthen in us, our call to invite others to this table, to share that same love and grace that God has bestowed upon us. 

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. 

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

amazing weekend!

I had the most amazing experience this past weekend. 
I traveled home to visit my parents and my mom and I completed the Hartford 1/2 Marathon together. 
We started together....and stayed together until we crossed the finish line - together. 
I am so blessed to have such a close relationship with my mom.  It was such an honor to see the results of her training as we finished the race. 

It's a moment I will never forget.  I thank God for my mom, for the relationship we have and for the memories we are blessed to share.  I know there are other mothers and daughters that have relationships like we do...and those who do not.  I should also say that it was great to have the opportunity to worship with the congregation where I worshipped as a kid and young adult.  Stepping into that building is coming home.  The people there are family, whether they knew me as a kid or just met me this past weekend, that community in Christ helped me become the woman I am today, the woman God created me to be.  There are so many women in that congregation who I could call mom.  So many women who impacted my life in little, yet important ways to help me become who I am today and who I continue to be. 

I feel that way at Trinity, too.  The sense of family, the feeling that people here are my family, just as my mom, dad and sister in New England are, just as my family at First Lutheran in Ellington is....The blessings found in the family of a congregation are amazing.  I pray that people find that congregation that teaches, nurtures and encourages them to grow in faith and in life. 

Find that congregation, worship with that congregation, pray with them, sing with them, fellowship with them, share highs and lows with them and be there for them.  It's an amazing thing, a church family, I hope others can experience God's grace and love through the actions and love of a congregation.

+paz

Monday, October 10, 2011

God's joy wins....(C.S. Lewis)

October 9, 2011

Isaiah 25:1-9
Psalm 23
Philippians 4:1-9
Matthew 22:1-14

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

Today in our gospel reading, we come to the end of a trilogy…a trilogy of parables, that is.  The past two weeks we have heard Jesus telling parables, and today is no different….but as we hear about this king and the wedding feast he prepares, it is helpful if we hear it in the context of the other parables. 

This section started off with the chief priests and the elders questioning Jesus’ authority.  Jesus shares a parable about the two sons and a father who asked them to work in the vineyard.  One says he will, but then decides not to, and the other says he won’t but changes his mind and does end up working that day.  A challenge for those in authority to hear that tax collectors and prostitutes will enter the kingdom before they will. 

The second parable we heard last week.  About the absentee vineyard owner who sends slaves to collect the rent…the slaves are beaten and killed….so the owner sends his son.  The tenants of the vineyard treat the son the same way, in hopes that by killing the heir, they will inherit the vineyard. 
After this parable, the chief priests and Pharisees realize that Jesus is talking about them.  They want to arrest Jesus, but have a fear of the crowds, so they do not. 

Today’s parable follows those two…and speaks about this wedding banquet that a king prepared for his son.  Those surrounding Jesus, especially the chief priests and the Pharisees, know that this is directed at them.  They would have heard that God has prepared and elegant banquet for his Son, but those who were invited have chosen not to attend.  For whatever reason, they are not going to the banquet.  So the king has sent his slaves out to the main streets to gather whomever they can find to come to the banquet.  In the Greek, the word for main streets translates more as cross roads, not necessarily the main streets in town, but the cross roads where the main roads diverges to other cities.  These slaves are being sent out, out of the city, out of the inner circle, to see who they can find to invite.  And…they invited both the bad and the good.  (Get that….everyone is invited!  Everyone!) 

But then comes the unsettling part of this parable.  In the midst of the celebration, there is one guest who is not clothed appropriately.  In Jesus’ time, at special banquets and celebrations, clothing was available at from the host, so everyone would be dressed appropriately.  Kind of like those fancy restaurants where a jacket is required…they usually have a few on hand in case the diners didn’t know the dress code in advance.  Yet this one guest just doesn’t’ have the robe, and doesn’t have a reason for not having one either.  He’s speechless. 

So the king has him bound and thrown into the outer darkness…where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth….the gospel of the Lord? 

Really?  This is the last parable in this trilogy?  Again, here I am looking for the happy ending…and this guy has been thrown out of the banquet because many are called but few are chosen.  Ugh. 

But think about this.  You’ve been at a party where someone is not having a good time.  They came to the wedding and they are at the reception, but they are a bump on a log.  They are not happy.  And you just can’t seem to get them to have a good time.  They don’t want to dance, they don’t want to talk, they’d rather just sit there.  The joy is there….the fun surrounds them….but they don’t see it…or don’t want to let it break into their hearts….and change them. 

But I’m here to tell you that God’s joy will win out in the end. 

All of these parables speak to us, about the kingdom of God.  When we think about the kingdom of God we often think about what happens after we die.  We think about heaven…..and hell.  We wonder what will happen after we die….or where we will end up. 

If you’re looking for the difference between heaven and hell, here it is.  In hell, there is a huge feast laid out on the table, but everyone's knives and forks are so long that they can't get the food to their own mouths. Struggle as they may, in the face of all this food, they starve.

In heaven, the story is almost exactly the same. There is a wonderful feast laid out. The knives and forks are so long that you can't get your food to your own mouth. The difference is that, in heaven, the people stop trying to feed themselves and instead use their long knives and forks to feed each other. No problem!

Now…take that next step with me.  The kingdom of God is here and now.  No, seriously it is. 

So how are we called to live in the kingdom here and now? 
How are we called to be embraced by God’s love and joy? 
How does the joy of God break into our hearts….and shine forth in what we do and say? 

Here are a few examples: 

“Tonight I lectured on my passion! Assistive Technology. I do this every week in the Fall but tonight I felt my passion speaking out as I taught six students how to write by scanning using a switch to type a sentence 1 letter by 1 letter on an onscreen keyboard. I thank God every day that he gave me this passion and joy is sharing it. One day I will help kids succeed in their school and environment again. But until that day I will continue to watch people become amazed at what the possibilities are. I love assistive technology!!!”

Can you feel that passion?  Can you feel God’s joy breaking through the heart of this person?  Can you see the joy?  It’s here and now. 

This past week, I had the opportunity to visit a parishioner at the hospital.  The first day I visited was his birthday.  Due to his liquid only diet, he did not get the hospital birthday cupcake :( nor did he get to go to Shady Maple Smorgasbord for his free birthday meal.  I was there as 3 staff came in to get an x-ray and they were laughing and talking with all of us, and genuinely enjoying their vocation. 

I got to visit again the next day and the wife of the patient said, "You know what one of the nurses did, Pastor?"  "No...." I replied. 
She said, "The nurse called Shady Maple to see if the hospital could send a note so he could get his free meal when he gets out of the hospital.  The restaurant said no, they used to do that but too many people worked the system that they had to stop." 

But the nurse took that extra time.....to see beyond herself, to see the patient as more than just a patient, but as someone in community with her. There is love, there is joy and there is abundance here and now. 

Can you see it? 

How are you called into daily vocation, living your life in the kingdom…at the wedding banquet here and now… sitting at a bountiful table, surrounded by God’s blessings of family and friends, of food and shelter, of companionship and support….how are you feeding others around you? 

C.S. Lewis writes in his book, The Great Divorce, “There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, "Thy will be done," and those to whom God says, in the end, "Thy will be done." All that are in Hell, choose it. Without that self-choice there could be no Hell . No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”

No soul that seriously and constantly desires joy will ever miss it….

Look for those ways to see God at work through you. 
Tell others about those amazing experiences.
Share that joy in your heart, in your life and in your community. 

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.